26th June 2018
It was a warm evening of variety, warm in weather and warm because there was a lot of support and encouragement in the room. I got the ball rolling with my own song ‘Wishes do Come True’. Luckily for me, as I hadn’t prepared a second solo, Jason arrived and we were able to give Cat Steven’s ‘Into White’ from the iconic Tea for the Tillerman album, its inaugural outing, successfully I think.
Another inaugural outing was made by Natasha’s cello, the first time I have seen a cello played at the Folk ‘n’ Blues Club. Natasha provided us with a beautiful ‘folk’ rendition of Sydney Carter’s protest song from the ‘60s, ‘The Crow on the Cradle’. Her cello playing gave it an ethereal quality that silenced the room. Take a look at Jackson Browne’s version with David Lindley on violin and also Show of Hands’ arrangement with Phil Beer’s adept violin playing. It is a song that can be interpreted in many ways. Natasha then showed us how finger picking those heavy cello strings works so well with a song such as ‘Matty Groves’, her second choice, a ‘Border ballad’ from up north pre-1635. (Should that be a ‘bawdy ballad’?!)
I watched our Sound Man Chris Martin’s D45 envy Fade and Disappear as his energies went into performing his own song of that title, while Clive took over the sound desk. Chris then asked the Martinettes Revisited (Heather and Lisa) to join him on his up-tempo Scrapheap Blues which had everyone tapping their toes. Chris does sterling work on our new all-singing-all-dancing sound desk and with mic stands donated by Manus, we really are fully wired for great sound.
Heather revealed her rather good French with her version of ‘Look what they’ve done with my song, Ma’. It was originally the B side to Melanie’s rather screechy release of ‘Ruby Tuesday’ in 1971. Lovely to be reminded of this song, Ma - and sweetly sung. Heather then performed her fresh out-of-the-oven self-penned ‘Old Friends’ which she described as being a modern song with a Scottish rhythm. I certainly wanted to do a jig!
It was Lance’s second visit and this time he sang his own songs. I’ve heard several original songs by Lance now and always enjoy the fact that he can write about so many subjects, serious and comic alike. His songs can make you laugh and make you think. ‘Meltdown’ was his first which had a poignant message, while ‘My Broken Heart’ touched a chord with a lot of us, I’m sure.
Simon with his warmly toned Martin started off with ‘Sin City’ by The Flying Burrito Brothers, after informing us that Simple Minds were once called Johnny and the Self Abusers. Don’t ask! Van Morrison’s ‘Tupelo Honey’ from his 1972 album of the same name, was Simon’s second song. Rather interestingly, Dusty recorded it in 1973. Simon’s rendition was compelling and sweet as honey.
Sylvie impresses me with her ability to pitch her unaccompanied songs. It’s a difficult thing to do, and even more difficult to keep the pitch throughout. Tonight, Sylvie put a poem called ‘Lord Neptune’ by renowned children’s author and poet Judith Nicholls, to her own tune, adding a chorus for us all to join in with.
Our jazz legend Manus has, I’m pleased to say, discovered James Taylor (better late than never Manus!). His interesting and inspiring guitar style recreated two very well-known songs: ‘Fire and Rain’ and ‘Mexico’. Manus has an inner groove and a command of that guitar neck that fascinates me. His arrangements hail from a jazz-influenced background yet incorporate many different techniques. Watch and learn folks!
A change of pace with John, who hasn’t performed at the club before, as he had us all singing rather exuberantly to the early Rolling Stones track and another B-side single, ‘Ruby Tuesday’ and Bowie’s 1969 signature opus ‘Space Oddity’. It was rightly included in The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s 500 Songs that Shaped…you guessed it…Rock and Roll. (Snappy title.) But is it rock and roll, or classic rock, or even pop? A discussion for next time perhaps...
We all fell silent for Clive’s renditions of ‘London River’ a song by Rod Sherman from Fairport’s Red and Gold album and the lovely 1967song ‘Painting Box’ from Scottish psychedelic folk group, The Incredible String Band. ‘’When I look inside my painting box, I seem to pick the colours of you.” Just lovely. Clive never seems to sing the same song twice. How does he do it!
Ella brought her bouzouki! She sang confidently with that fine toned instrument, proving to us that it can turn a convincing folk phrase with the 18th century ballad ‘Fare Thee Well My Own True Love’, as well as a country riff with ‘Down at the Twist and Shout’ by Mary Chapin Carpenter from her 1991 album Shooting Straight in the Dark. Ella sadly recently decided to leave the committee, but she returns to support the club and it is always such a pleasure to see her performances, whether it be on piano or with her bouzouki.
It was coming towards the end of a varied and entertaining evening of music. The atmosphere was fun and friendly, with laughter, banter, respectful support of all the performers and encouraging words, which combine to make for a special open mic night. Jason and I performed two duets to end with. Stephen Stills lyrically stunning ‘Helplessly Hoping’ from CSN’s 1969 debut album, and Dylan’s ‘Tonight I’ll be Staying Here with You’ from his much lauded (also 1969) Nashville Skyline album. With Jason’s encouragement and support, I am learning the disciplines of timing, careful listening and creative arrangements. Oh, and how to play the guitar, as well as sing a song without looking at the words! We never stop learning. For all that, I thank you Mr L!
Duetting is a joy, but how else to finish than with a singalong from John. ‘The Air that I breathe’ had a shaky start, but once we got going, this Hollies classic created a rousing end to a great evening.
Music is always in the air that we breathe.
12th June 2018
The seventies produced some great songs some of which we attempted this evening with various degrees of success and no lack of enthusiasm. Lots of wistful, oh yeah, I remember that. For me it was one of those pivotal decades, marriage, a child, responsibility and Dire Straits (in my case financially - trying to make ends meet). I could see the same thoughts crossing the faces of others during the evening. This is what these nights are about.
I started things off with Albert Hammond’s “It never rains in southern California”, followed by Slow Hand’s “Wonderful Tonight” and later, Six blade knife by Dire Straits with Terry playing lead.
Clive decided to bracket the decade with 1970 “Wandering Star” he didn’t quite get the Lee Marvin growl but it came close. He followed this with Mike Batt’s 1979 “Bright Eyes” ever associated with rabbits. Clive also ran the desk for us and gave us some mellow sounds.
Manus took us to the seventies folk scene with James Taylor’s “Something in the way she moves” followed by John Rembourn’s version of “Sweet Potato” – a great choice.
Next up was Natasha with a charming version of John Denver’s “Annie’s Song”, I was always a John Denver fan so I particularly enjoyed that. It is time for a John Denver revival he wrote some great stuff. This was followed by Hal Ketchum’s “Past the point of rescue” from the 1990’s but we pretended not to notice.
Then it was time for a debut, it was the first time Lance visited the Six Bells and we hope it won’t be the last. He gave us Paul Simon’s “Slip sliding away” followed by “Knights in white satin” the Moody Blue (re-issue version). A couple of tricky songs to play and sing but he nailed them.
Sylvie was next with her own composition “In praise of Bobby Dylan” followed by her “Please, please will you do these little things”. Not enough songs about toilet training in my humble opinion.
Pat followed Sylvie and sang unaccompanied, Dusty Springfield’s “Goin’ back” followed by “Leaving on a jet plane”. We all remember these.
Enough guitars, time for Ella on the piano. Being a hippy chick at heart Ella was in her element, I did not catch the name of the first song but this was followed by “After the gold rush” and later, another Neil Young song “Hurricane”. Good stuff.
Jason was wearing a flower powered shirt, he sang us Bob Dylan’s “Only a hobo” followed by Cat Steven’s “Longer boats” and later (with Lisa) Harry Nilsson’s “Everybody’s talking”. Only the Cat Stevens song qualified 1970, the others were 60’s songs (but then who’s being picky – I would never point that out to him).
Time for Terry. He gave us the muscle memory version of Scott Joplin’s “Maple Leaf Rag” followed by another Dire Straits song “Romeo & Juliet”. This is what happens when you practice.
Lisa, another Hippy Chick had dressed in her seventies gear (including flares – I loved wearing those, long overdue for a comeback in my opinion) accompanied by Jason they sang the Beatles classic “You’ve got to hide your love away” and then “Wild Horses” by the Stones.
Finally we had Keith who gave us his own song “Little Strategies” and then, because he had to play it in public, Mozart’s Concerto No. 21 in C major. A catchy title but totally inappropriate for a 70’s evening, not that I would be in any way critical; he did at least add a funky ending. Why didn’t old Amadeus think of that? Anyway, Keith got his “played in public” box ticked!
Thanks to everyone who came along, particularly those who went to the trouble of learning a 70’s song for the occasion. Next time it is sure to be a packed house as Lisa is running the evening. I am looking forward to it. See you next time.
29th May 2018
When Simon asked a few weeks ago if I was prepared to compere an odd evening at the Six Bells I assumed he wanted me to run a normal evening, occasionally. He could have meant odd in the sense of bizarre though. I’ll do my best.
Attendance was neither phenomenal nor embarrassing. Ten performers turned up, which gave everyone a couple of songs, then, when we’d been round once, a chance for a happy few to do a third. There was even a sprinkling of non-performers. Hurrah!
I opened with one of mine, Too Sad to Sing the Blues from the Calmer Waters Album, followed with a poem, The Double Bass Seeks Love, from my new pamphlet of musical poems Day Job Shoes, which is ripe for shameless self-promotion.
Andy lives in Brighton and had visited the club a few times before. From tonight’s performance he’s very welcome to come again. He played harmonica and guitar on two original songs. The first, The Sound of Snow Falling, was gentle and reflective, about being warm and safe inside when it’s snowing outside; the second original, The Ghost on Brooklyn Bridge, had an upbeat Latin tempo and realised its ghostliness by the use of minor chords.
Silvie is a regular visitor with her poems and unaccompanied songs. This time she performed two of her poems Monet’s Garden, thanking the artist for the pleasure he had given to so many visitors, with all those water lilies and The Razor Tree, concerning inept razor management by adolescent sons. A couple of Sundays ago, at the Green Man in Ringmer, there’d been a large number of French visitors, who she’d hoped would be impressed by the Monet verse, but they perhaps preferred Manet. For those of us who played there it was probably the biggest audience we’d seen in a long time.
Retournons a nos oignons. Frank Xerox was next up. His self-penned witty ditty Way Down in Havana was about an exotic dancer. Somewhat Dylanesque in its narrative style, this throbbing ballad told of many steamy sights, including fruit on the dancer’s head. One of his five a day? The second song, which used some more of Frank’s many “accents”, was The Devil Went Down, thankfully not also about an exotic dancer but a come-uppance ballad about the Devil wreaking punishments a la Goya on those who were responsible for the financial crash of 2008. Frank explained that it was all in revenge for the bankers having repossessed Hades.
The prolific singer songwriter and recordist Chris (CJ) Martin, who I don’t think has missed a Six Bells evening in living memory, then did two of his songs Run and I Can’t Make it Shine. The world is full of a number of things, and Chris writes about them, singing acoustic rock with recherché chord sequences. At risk of repeating what has been said before, this man is good – buy his CDs. He also works the sound desk, which is a service to humanity.
We’d got this far with all original material - a record? Then on to some original interpretations of covers. Manus gave us some of his tasteful jazz chords and licks in a rendition of Hendrix’s Little Wing followed by True Colours. Manus related this song to Grenfell Tower; he’d lived in a clad tower block and always felt that colours were being stuck on the outside with nobody listening to the colours within. He got a good funky groove going too. Not a note out of place. Since there was no phone signal at the Bells, the Googligentsia among you may wish to know that True Colours was written by Billy Steinberg and Tom Kelly, although widely associated with Cyndi Lauper.
Heather is a balladeer with a great zest for life and has sung a couple of times at the Bells recently after a long rest from performance. In spite of suffering from what she called “Teacheritis” (a croaky voice caused by excessive educational effort) she gave us a Beatle’s cover The Long and Winding Road and then the Melanie version of Ruby Tuesday by the Stones. My croak-o-meter registered nothing during either of these.
Then, not realising the iconoclasticism involved, I called for a break. This is not traditional at the Bells and, ten minutes later, I found out why. Even Heather’s school teacherly authority did not help in speedily getting people out of their vibrant conversations and back to their seats. There was time during the break, though, for a group photo of that Kafkaesque body “The Committee”, which will no doubt appear on the website sometime.
Got going again with my song Requiem. Then we heard Simon Watt, again someone who has missed very few Bells evenings over the years. Simon is equally talented at performing covers (mainly country) and writing songs that express his own gentle humour. Tonight, the covers won. He told a tale of having seen “two old guys playing guitar” in a pub in Eastleigh and realising that, through their music, they were expressing friendship – just like us at the club. This, as in a Hollywood musical, led skilfully into a large orchestration of You’ve Got a Friend in Me (by Randy Newman) with Manus and Clive on tambourines, Andy on Harmonica and Frank on Guitar. A good country groove for the second number Bring it to Me by Sam Cooke.
Clive is encoded into the DNA of the club, ever present with his own compositions, his covers, his compering and his work on the sound desk. He did one of his own songs Blue Above the Grey emphasising positivity above negativity, then a Dylan song Tomorrow is a Long Time, which provoked a singalong.
Jason, who runs the Sunday Folk Club at the Elephant and Castle, Lewes, on the second Sunday of each month (please go, everyone), used his mellifluous voice to great effect in Thank You by “The Mighty Led Zepp”. There’s something of Elvis Costello in that tenor voice, with a nice deep resonance too. Lisa joined him with vocals and some good licks on his second song Tonight I’ll be Staying Here with You from Dylan’s Nashville Skyline album.
Lisa then did an incredibly original version of Elvis’s Don’t be Cruel, releasing it from its oomba-oomba rock and roll prison and turning it into a folk ballad. Then Jason joined her on So Begins the Task (S Stills) with some lovely harmonies.
And so, at around twenty to eleven ended the cycle of performers and the start of a quickfire second round – one song each and see how far we get. Andy went into open tuning to do Come Dance with Me, a song of the army and love in Northern Ireland, with some beautiful harmonies on the guitar. Silvie stood aside to let Frank perform both kinds of music (country and western) and we all joined in. Finally, Chris Martin did his legendary 12-bar hit Toast for One with Lisa, Heather and Jason as the backing vocals trio, Frank on lead guitar and Andy on harmonica.
Then there were the parish notices and the speeches of thanks and Simon reminded us to reconvene for the 70s evening in two weeks. As this was my debut, I was too overcome by what I’d undergone to remember to thank Chris and Clive on sound, so thanks to Chris and Clive, on sound. And thanks for lugging all those mysterious black cabinets about.
The person that runs the evening writes the blog
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